(Personal Capital is now Empower)
We’ve all got that friend whose professional success seems somehow effortless. Their career trajectory is lined with dollar signs.
But just as a duck paddling under water gives the appearance of grace and ease as it glides across a pond, there’s a lot more going under the surface.
Today, we’re here to unveil the mechanics of that active paddling, helping you to become the kind of person that people whisper about between sipping mimosas at weddings and bar mitzvahs.
“He made his first million by the time he was 23!“
And just who is this successful friend that we talked to?
Well, folks, don’t say we don’t spoil you, because here for your delectation are two of the smartest guys in the business: Empower’s CEO and VP of Advisory Service, Jay Shah and Amin Dabit respectively.
Need you even ask, this industry-leading, digital wealth manager with over two million users surpassed $12 billion in assets under management (AUM) in December, an increase of more than $2 billion since the end of 2018.
In the same year, the company secured $64 million in additional funding, launched a private equity offering for clients and introduced new high-yield account Empower Cash.
Read on to find out how these high achievers did it, from two men at the top of their game.
Meet the CEO of Empower – Jay Shah
Jay Shah is CEO of Empower and brings over 20 years of leadership experience building & running consumer-direct FinTech entities that have redefined the banking, credit and investing landscape.
Raising over $200 million to make Empower a consumer-direct, next-generation digital wealth management enterprise, Jay has been at Empower since 2009. He served as the CIO and COO before assuming the role of CEO in 2017.
Meet the VP of Advisory Service at Empower – Amin Dabit
Amin Dabit serves as the Vice President of Advisory Service at Empower and oversees all client-facing advisors and programs for 22,000+ clients nationally.
Amin has been at Empower since 2013 and is responsible for coordinating and executing the unparalleled client experience of Empower’s wealth management service.
Money Under 30’s interview with Jay Shah and Amin Dabit
MU30: How did you personally learn about financial investments when you were younger? Did you learn on your own, from an adult (if yes, who), in school? I know our readers will definitely want to hear your story.
JS: I didn’t know anything about finances when I was younger!
My parents weren’t particularly financially inclined, so it wasn’t something we ever talked about as a family. My financial education was largely self-taught. The summer before I started college, I worked at a credit card company. I started in the sales department and was at the top of my game – I thought I was helping people get access to the credit they needed. Then I moved into the collections department, and I saw first-hand how selling some of these people credit cards was far more harmful than I originally understood.
It was then I knew I needed to learn more about personal finance, my own and the industry itself, so at least I wouldn’t ’t ever fall victim to some its worst actors and at best I could become an agent of change for the better in the space. That’s how I learned about personal finance, and how I started on the path that led me to where I am today at Empower.
MU30: What do you think is the best way for Millennials to learn about personal finances and investments?
AD: If you are still in school or interested in continuing education, sign up for a personal finance class. Look for colleges and universities that offer this locally or online. There are also online education programs that may have good information.
It’s important to try and learn more about personal finance as early in your life as possible. Investments can be pretty complex and can take a long time to learn so starting with personal finance is the best first step.
MU30: Which books helped teach you about personal investment that you can recommend to our readers?
JS: The book Rich Dad, Poor Dad (by Robert T. Kiyosaki) was a real wake up call for me and a great lesson about how important it is to break inertia through financial literacy.
For those of us not born with a silver spoon, it’s incredibly important to know we’re competing in an industry that historically has put profits before people.
AD: The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy, The Richest Man in Babylon, and The Intelligent Investor
MU30: What would you say to a Millennial who is – at the end of the day – scared to get started with financial investing?
AD: It depends on the source of the concern. Is it losing money? Not knowing where to start? Uncertainty of your financial situation?
It’s okay to be scared or intimidated by investing but ultimately, investing is critical if you want to achieve financial success and improve your quality of life.
If the concern is about losing money, you can always start with small investments, this will help you learn and research without taking on too much risk.
If the concern is not knowing where to start or where you stand financially, Empower is the perfect tool to help you get a picture of your financial situation so you can start making decisions on how to improve it.
MU30: You focus on helping people manage and grow their net worth through your products and services, but what is Empower doing for people who are starting at zero – meaning, they know NOTHING about personal finance but still want to retire early.
AD: Empower’s personal finance tools are free to anyone who wants to get a holistic, transparent picture of their financial lives. By using the Empower dashboard you’ll get a clearer picture of where you stand financially in a way that’s easy to understand, and just as importantly, easy to set up.
One of our most powerful tools is the Retirement Planner, which shows you what your retirement (early or late) would look like based on your current financial life. Then, you can use the tool to create different scenarios to see how they would impact your retirement savings and income.
Expecting an inheritance? Thinking about buying a second home? You can see how those life events and decisions could change your financial future. There is a lot of content and tutorials within the Empower dashboard that can help everyone learn and improve their financial life.
MU30: What advice do you have for our readers who may be drowning in student loan debt?
AD: I suggest making a plan with three main steps:
- Organize all of your debt so you have a clear picture of how many loans, the rates for each, and what the total amount is.
- Prioritize the loans with the highest interest rates for a more aggressive paydown. Anything you can pay extra towards those loans will compound over time.
- Review on a regular basis and shop around for better interest rates if it makes sense.
MU30: What is the biggest lesson you’ve personally learned about financial investing?
JS: When I was younger and started making money, I thought you were supposed to do something entrepreneurial with it so I taught myself how to trade options. It was in the critical years of building my nest egg, and there I was trying to beat the system.
Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t, but most importantly, I learned from experience that it was not a sustainable, long-term strategy.
MU30: Do you listen to any financial podcasts? If yes, what are your favorites?
JS: I listen to a lot of podcasts, but I personally really like business and entrepreneurial podcasts. For those looking for some personal finance ear-candy, I’d recommend Dave Ramsey and Planet Money podcasts as great places to start.
AD: I don’t really listen to financial podcasts but I do like to listen to a lot of audiobooks. The most recent interesting one is “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. Changing habits is an important part of helping people transform their financial life.
MU30: How do you keep up with financial news on a day-to-day basis?
JS: This is an interesting question because I do keep up with financial news daily (if not hourly!), but that’s because it’s so critical to my business.
For everyday investors, I’d actually recommend not keeping up with financial news on a day-to-day basis. There’s a lot of hype and noise out there that can distract from what the real focus should be: the long-term financial plan you’ve built with your advisor.
AD: We have some expert advisors that send an internal market update daily. It’s interesting content to read, and a great snapshot of what is going on in financial news so that I can make better financial decisions for myself and better advise my clients.
MU30: We’d love to hear more in-depth about how and when Empower began. Tell us more about the origins, beginnings, and the inspiration for Empower.
JS: In 2009, we created Empower in order to do the right thing by the everyday investor. We wanted to give investors clarity and control over their money by introducing transparency to the financial industry. Investors deserve to see where they were being charged extra fees, be able to track the performance of all of their investments, and realistically project their progress toward retirement.
To do this, first, we created award-winning technology that gives investors a 360-degree view of their financial information along with small details about their accounts that were previously hard to find. In other words, we wanted to show people what the rest of the industry didn’t want them to see.
Next, we hired financial planning and investing experts who will act in the best interest of the investor. We combine technology with advice from registered advisors who listen to our clients and guide them in every step of the way. This way, our clients get personalized retirement and investing plans, and portfolios that evolve with their lives.
The result has been a new type of personalized financial company that combines the accuracy of data and insights with the credibility and judgment of fiduciary advisors, all built on the foundation of transparency.
MU30: Is Empower at the end of the day for everybody? Who is it best for and why?
JS: Empower is for anyone who wants to get clarity into their financial lives and gain confidence in their financial futures. Our tools are particularly helpful for those with complex financial lives who have multiple accounts across different financial institutions. It can be impossible to get a holistic view of their finances, so we built our dashboard so they could see all their money in one place and more effectively create a financial plan for their family’s future.
We can also help anyone save for their short-term goals with our cash management solution. And for those with more than one hundred thousand dollars to invest, we have insight-driven wealth management services and advisors to help clients create personalized financial plans.
MU30: Is there something that you think our readers may not know about Empower that you’d like to share?
JS: Based on some of our own research, I think readers might not know that we’re a fiduciary, or really what the power of that word is. As fiduciaries, we are bound to act in our clients’ best interests. There are financial companies out there that are both advisors AND brokers, and that can make it really confusing to know who you’re talking to, how exactly they’re making money, and whether you can trust the advice you’re getting.
At Empower, we charge a flat fee, and our advisors don’t make money on trades they make or funds they recommend. As a fiduciary, you can trust that our advisors are focused on securing your financial future, not their own.
MU30: What is one thing that sets Empower apart and what is one thing that Empower needs to fix?
JS: From day one we’ve been out to fix the broken financial services system that puts profits before people. What sets us apart is that we put the customer at the center of everything we do. As an RIA, we have a fiduciary duty to do what’s in the best interest of our clients, and that mentality extends beyond our wealth management clients, which is why we make our digital personal finance tools available to anyone.
MU30: What is the future of wealth management and how do you see Empower changing in the next 12 to 24 months to lead that change?
JS: The future of wealth management is personal and transparent, and we are at the forefront. The role of technology will grow in that it will help provide advisors with the tools they need to provide more personalized advice, and will offer greater transparency to investors so they can be more engaged with their financial lives.
We have been leading that change for 10 years and we’re excited to continue to be at the forefront of the next ten. I can’t tell you too much about what our plans are for the next year, but I can say that you should expect to see us develop more personalized solutions to the financial problems plaguing today’s American families.
I believe in leading by example, and that our success will encourage others in the industry to follow suit.
Jay and Amin are the proof that you don’t have to grow up in a financially-literate family to take control of your finances. Sometimes the smartest people in the room are self-taught.
But you sure can help yourself with the combined smarts of a wealth management tool, expert advice and cluing up with a host of podcasts, audiobooks, and apps that will ensure you stay ahead of the game.
From all of us at Money Under 30, a huge thank you to Jay and Amin for sharing their insights and advice about personal investment and wealth management.
To our Money Under 30 readers – cheers to pushing forward into 2020 as we navigate our way through the world of financial planning to make smart AND educated money decisions.
Learn more about Empower and read our full Empower review.Empower Personal Wealth, LLC (“EPW”) compensates Webpals Systems S. C LTD for new leads. Webpals Systems S. C LTD is not an investment client of Personal Capital Advisors Corporation or Empower Advisory Group, LLC.